How Social Networking Influences Coming Out

The suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi is shining a spotlight on the ways in which online social networking can complicate coming out for gay and lesbian youth.

Clementi committed suicide after his roommate allegedly secretly taped footage of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man, posted it on the Internet and also tweeted about it.

We asked CJ Pascoe, a sociology professor at Colorado College, who studies the role of new media in teen sexuality and dating, about how the Internet has been both a help and a hindrance to gay teens.

“It offers both resources and risks, and I don’t think we’re fully prepared to balance the two,” said Pascoe in an interview. “On the one hand, when I talk to gay and lesbian teens, it is a lifeline for them. They are able to find community–especially isolated teens. When I talk to transgender teens, they say they are able to give a name to what they are feeling when they go online.”

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